There are 23 state representatives and five state senators who represent Allegheny County in the state legislature. In the last legislative term, only one of those lawmakers was a woman.
Rep. Anita Astorino Kulik was elected in 2016 to represent State House District 45. In 2019, the Democrat will get five new female colleagues as state reps, and one new female lawmaker in the state senate.
“I think that’s amazing to make that transition,” Kulik said. “First, we started with no women. Then I got elected two years ago and there was one woman, and now we have six. That’s absolutely amazing to me.”
Kulik will be joined in the State House by fellow Democrats Sara Innamorato and Summer Lee. She’ll also have three new Republican colleagues – Natalie Mihalek, Valerie Gaydos and Lori Mizgorski. Kulik said she’s spoken at length with both of her soon-to-be Democratic colleagues.
“They’re both wonderful young women,” she said. “They’re coming in with some incredible ideas and things that they want to see changed in government, and I think their youth is on their side. They have background and experience, even though they’re young. They’re very enthusiastic and I love that about them.”
Kulik is notably more conservative than Lee and Innamorato – both are backed by the Democratic Socialists of America.
“But that’s my district, my district is different than theirs,” Kulik said. “But I welcome the differences that we have. I think, truly, that is how government works – and anything works – is when you bring in all these different ideas and try and find common ground and work with that.”
She listed education as an issue that she and her new, progressive colleagues can find common ground on, but said figuring out where to find extra funding may reveal differences.
“I think we all agree that we need to properly spend on education ... from my perspective that’s fine. I understand that we need to spend on education, I know we need to help working families, but we have to look at where the money is coming from,” Kulik said.
The newly re-elected Democrat is also more conservative on issues like abortion rights. Kulik describes herself as proudly pro-life, and voted in 2018 to ban abortions for fetuses that could have Down syndrome. Kulik recognized that might be a difficult issue to find agreement on within the new delegation.
“But I also have spoken with people from the other side,” she said. “I’ve had Planned Parenthood in my office a couple times. So I am open to listening to what other people have to say. I don’t believe I will ever change my stance on that issue. It’s my background, it’s how I was raised -- and quite frankly, a lot of people in my district share my feelings on it, so I don’t know if there’s going to be common ground there or not.”
Kulik said she’s met with one of the new Republican Representatives, and looks forward to speaking with the other two women.
The six women in the State House will be joined by another woman who’s new to politics in the state Senate, Lindsey Williams.